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ExWeb interview with Iñaki Ochoa, part 2 final: Everest, the way it is climbed nowadays, is by far the easiest of the 8,000ers

Posted: Apr 10, 2007 03:40 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) After three decades in the Himalayas as an independent climber, a member of big teams, and a hired guide for commercial expeditions Iñaki Ochoa de Olza states hes seen it all. Though his experience has taught him to climb and let climb, it has not tempered his outspoken attitude. He expresses his opinions freely, whomever they may concern, whether climbing celebrities, who have learned to fear his sharp comments as much as the bulls running every year through the streets in his homeland Pamplona, to expedition outfitters that very few people dare to confront.

ExplorersWeb: Whats your opinion on Himalayan climbings current trajectory? Is it going through a process of stagnation (massive use of O2, commercialization, etc) How do you see the future?

Iñaki: I dont like to criticize or judge what others do, usually. I firmly believe in individual freedom. Having said that, I think that there are at least 20 or 30 guys out there who are motivated, committed, strong and honest enough to climb on the Higher Peaks decently, with imagination and passion. This group, which is not a sect or a Nietzschean ubermensch elite, would never use bottled oxygen or Sherpas, and they would try to minimize the use of fixed ropes. The best climbers still have a lot to do, and they will, for sure. And I want to be a part of it, if I can.

As for the rest of the people what do they do? It is simple: As Messner rightly puts it, they just practice Resort Alpinism, on prepared tracks, with safety lines attaching them back to life, letting somebody carry their loads and risk their lives for money, and sucking more oxygen than Jacques Cousteau.

OK, it is fine with me, because no one has the right to tell others what they should do. But I get really pissed when one of these local heroes comes back down telling stories, bragging and thinking they have done something special because they just summited Everest. Come on! Everest, the way it is climbed nowadays, is by far the easiest of the 8,000ers. And I do not understand why 90 percent of the climbers use oxygen on Cho Oyu from 7,000m, which is an altitude where you can live for a week without it. It is a mystery to me.

The elite will always look for new routes, winter climbs, express climbs, solo climbs or a combination of all of them. But it is not for everyone, so do not try this at home!!

Independent climbers wouldnt summit without commercial teams or the work of Sherpas

ExplorersWeb: Independent climbers blame commercial expeditions for all problems occurring on 8,000ers, especially on Everest. You are an independent climber, and have also worked as a guide for commercial outfitters. After being on both sides of the battlefield, whats your point of view should the commercials be controlled somehow, or are they just doing their job?

Iñaki: Commercial expeditions and independent climbers are no different than the rest of the world; some are OK, some are not. I have seen it all. Commercial teams are looking for a financial profit, and many people criticize this. But I dont see why it is OK to guide in Zermatt or Chamonix but not on Everest, as long as you make your clients understand that on Everest no one can be a guide in the alpine sense of the term. If all is spoken honestly beforehand, then my opinion is that it is OK. Anyhow, some people like Ralf Dujmovits or Kari Kobler do a very decent and honest job, but most of the commercial outfitters promise something they cant give or guarantee: The summit and a safe descent.

I also must say that I know very well that, on Everest, no independent climber would summit without the commercial teams, or more precisely, without the work of their Sherpas. And it is funny how some of the independent climbers are furious about too many people on the route, or too many fixed ropes... generally these ones only speak after using their jumars on those same ropes without compassion...

I know a very famous Spanish climber who tried Everest and did not summit, then came home saying that Everest is a circus... only to come back again to the same place, and same route, next year... I can only guess that he liked the lions, or the clowns, or the show in general... And while that happens, the east face, the southwest face and the north face are all empty. Not to speak of the rest of mountains...

There will never be any control up there, thank God. That is the good thing about mountaineering, that the fat bureaucrats that rule most of the sports-business in the world still have their very sharp claws out of climbing. I just pray it stays like that.

Stay away from Russell Brice

ExplorersWeb: By the way, do you see yourself working as a guide for commercial teams?

Iñaki: Why not? I love guiding, sharing my experiences and my passion with others. I think only if I had a family would I stop all Himalayan climbing, but when the wine and roses days of professionalism finish, I do not think there are many other things in life that I am good at... We will see, but if I ever work as a high-altitude guide again, I would try to have my own clients, or at least stay away from bosses like Russell Brice. I would never work for that kind of guy, never.

ExplorersWeb: There are other teams going for Dhaula this spring: Italians, Kazahks, more Spaniards, Gerlinde, etc. Looks like an interesting group of people. Are you looking forward to meeting them all there, or would you rather have the mountain all to yourself (and your team)?

Iñaki: I dont like to think in hypothetical terms, like what if and that kind of stuff. Two years ago we were just two expeditions on the entire mountain, and now we will be more; thats OK with me. It is much better to adapt yourself to what you find and avoid wishful thinking that never works in the big hills. If all these people are there we will have fun, no doubt about it. Italians are the best for this, and we will try our best not to be left out... And with the Kazakhs there, I can keep up with my Russian language lessons... my only problem is they only teach me all the bad words in their vocabulary!!

Free even from the wish of summiting

ExplorersWeb: Recently you wrote that you feel somehow sad, thinking youve only got three 8,000ers left to summit. You also said it may take time and some attempts to get done with them. Have you already given some thought to what you would like to do next?

Iñaki: Yes, I have lots of projects, and not just climbing ones. I have to let them grow and see which of them wins the race to become reality first. This is the nice part of the process, very rich and fulfilling, when the wish for something is being born and the heart and mind are 100 percent in unison on something

I owe a lot to the people of the Himalayas, and I have some humanitarian-sport projects, which hopefully will become real soon. And if not, in the worst of cases at least they are mine, and it is good to have them.

If ever I finish the 8,000ers, I wont feel freed, or anything like that or close to that. That would mean that my life right now is hell, that I hate my job and my passion, and that I want to climb these mountains to scratch their names off a list. And nothing is further from my way of relating with the Himalayas, with life itself. Every mountain I try to climb has to teach me a lot, has to be a worthwhile project in itself. And it has to allow me to be free, even free from the wish of summiting. That is why I jump in the plane to Nepal with the same smile on my face and knot in my stomach as 17 years ago, when I did it for the first time.

Yes, in a way it would be sad to finish them all. I have a lot of respect for a guy like Hans Kammerlander, who did not climb the last of them, Manaslu, because his friends were killed there. That kind of thing, personal greatness, you do not buy it in any shop. But finish or not, walking my path in the Himalayas has been fulfilling, teaching, humbling and very much worth it. Lets just keep on doing it; lets climb!!

Iñaki Ochoa de Olza has Kangchenjunga, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna left for the complete list of 14, 8000ers. In addition to his 11 summits, Iñaki also has summited Cho Oyu twice more, plus done Shisha central and the foresummit of Broad peak.

Last year, besides Manaslu, Iñaki summited Shisha Pangma main in less than 15 hours. Climbing alone in rather bad conditions which had turned all other climbers on the spot away, he followed a new variation from C3. For that climb he was awarded among ExplorersWeb's Best of 2006.

Ochoa was born in Pamplona, Spain on May 29, 1967. He had his first experience on an 8000+ meter peak, Kangchenjunga, at age 22. He has since taken part in over 30 Himalayan expeditions and also worked as high altitude cameraman and guide.

This spring Iñaki s giving Dhaulagiri a second try after a failed attempt in 2005. Ochoa has made sure he is climbing with long time friends who share his criteria: ascending without O2 or Sherpas and minimizing the use of fixed ropes. Ochoa's team mates will be Jorge Egocheaga, Oscar Fernández, Ignacio Barrio, Romanian Horia Colibasanu, American Joby Ogwyn and Swiss female climber Joelle Brupbacher. After Dhaula Iñaki, Horia and Joelle will attempt Annapurna. Australian Andrew Lock may join the group after climbing Shisha Pangma.

#Mountaineering








"I think that there are at least 20 or 30 guys out there who are motivated, committed, strong and honest enough to climb on the Higher Peaks decently, with imagination and passion [...] As for the rest they just practice Resort Alpinism." (Clik to enlarge).
"Commercial expeditions and independent climbers are no different than the rest of the world; some are OK, some are not. I have seen it all... know very well that, on Everest, no independent climber would summit without the commercial teams, or more precisely, without the work of their Sherpas." (Click to enlarge).
"Jorge Egocheaga and Peter Guggemos, I will miss you this time brothers!! Good luck..." Ochoa (left) in K2 high camp (click to enlarge).
"I love guiding, sharing my experiences and my passion with others. I think only if I had a family would I stop all Himalayan climbing, but when the wine and roses days of professionalism finish, I do not think there are many other things in life that I am good at..." (Click to enlarge).
"Some people like Ralf Dujmovits or Kari Kobler do a very decent and honest job, but most of the commercial outfitters promise something they cant give or guarantee: The summit and a safe descent." In the image, C2 on K2 (click to enlarge).
"Walking my path in the Himalayas has been fulfilling, teaching, humbling and very much worth it. Lets just keep on doing it; lets climb!!" All images courtesy of Iñaki Ochoa de Olza (click to enlarge).
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